“I need to be alone.”
How often do we hear this from friends (ourselves even) who are stressed or going through difficult times in their lives? We apologetically raise our hands and back off. We respect their privacy and their need to withdraw from us and their social groups.
Dangers of Isolation
According to psychologists, isolation is not a good way to cope with stress. Although, there is a tendency to isolate oneself from other temporarily. A day or two of solitude may work well for some. However, prolonged and intentionally detaching from social groups is an unhealthy practice. Studies have shown that loneliness and isolation from other people may compromise the body’s ability to fight-off disease.
Loneliness also increases the stress hormones which may lead to heart disease, increased blood pressure and even a heart attack. If not addressed, it may lead to depression, alcoholism, and even drug addiction. To counter this, we need to connect socially.
God did not only create Adam. He even said in Genesis 2:18, “It is not good for man to be alone.” So, he also formed Eve from Adam’s rib. He designed men and women to connect with one another. From the beginning, God created us as social beings. We need one another.
We all have that need to be accepted and validated and being plugged in a social group will address that need. You may already have that network of friends from school, at work, community, church and family. Being part of a group gives a sense of belongingness and acceptance.
A social group is a collection of people who interact with each other and share similar characteristics and a sense of unity. That is why it is important to choose the social group that is best for you. Look for people who will bring out the best in you, encourage you and always have your best interest in mind. They may offer constructive criticism that will benefit you. Remember, we may not always agree with each other but we shouldn’t disengage. Avoid negative people and fault-finders. Joining the wrong crowd may even cause you undue stress and depression.
Being part of social groups or support groups improves your social connectedness. Professional or business groups offer support, growth, mentoring and connections. If you are a mom, you can join support groups that caters to your specific need like moms with special needs kids, breastfeeding moms, homeschooling moms, work-at-home moms, parent-teacher groups etc. Religious or Bible Study Groups encourage discipleship, mentoring, fellowshipping, and even counseling to some extent.
Over time trust is developed as you depend on other members for emotional and moral support. You go through life together in the different seasons of life. You share the same trials and milestones in marriage, finances, parenting, employment and other areas of life in varying degrees. Somehow the stress you go through becomes lighter once shared with a friend or two. You feel empowered and hopeful knowing that you are not alone.
For years, I have been building my network of social groups. To date, I have my discipleship group in church, my two business groups, my professional group, and family. Yes, family is my most important social group. These groups have a positive influence in specific areas of my personal and professional life. I share my experiences with them and at the same time learn more from theirs. In the age of social media and selfies, it is very hard to find true and sincere friends offline. Find your crew, gang, troop, posse or pack and make meaningful connections.